Subject: Yogyakarta mourns slain Father Tarcisius Dewanto

Jakarta Post December 10, 1999

Yogyakarta mourns slain Father Tarcisius Dewanto

By Sri Wahyuni

YOGYAKARTA (JP): Catholics in this ancient city are still mourning the death of Father Tarcisius Dewanto, who in September died an untimely death at the age of 36.

Romo Anto, as the priest was affectionately called, was among dozens of people, including another two priests, massacred in a church in Suai, East Timor, when pro-Jakarta militia stormed refugees holed up in the church.

His remains were exhumed on Nov. 25 from a mass grave in Belu, East Nusa Tenggara, where another 25 victims of the Suai massacre were also buried in mass graves. They were unearthed by a fact-finding team from the National Commission on Human Rights.

The two other slain priests, whose bodies were also found in the mass graves, were identified as Father Hilario Madeira and Father Francisco Soares.

Romo Anto, who hailed from the Central Java town of Magelang, some 40 kilometers north of here, was assigned to the Suai Church only from Aug. 13, 1999.

"I'm glad that they finally found the body of my son and reburied him (in Dili), that he is now buried in a dignified way," Romo Anto's mother Lucia Rahayu Suharno, 64, told The Jakarta Post.

Romo Anto was the youngest son of the three children of the late Stephanus Suharno and Lucia. Born in Magelang on May 18, 1965, the young Dewanto was known as a church activist.

He served the local parish as an altar boy before he enrolled in 1981 at the Mertoyudan Seminary School near Magelang.

After finishing his studies at Mertoyudan, he studied from 1983 to 1987 at the Garum Seminary High School in the East Java town of Blitar. He then served his SJ novitiate period in Girisonta, Central Java, until 1989. Then he learned philosophy at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta from 1989 to 1993. He served his pastoral duty in Surakarta, Central Java, for two years until he began in 1997 theology studies at the Wedabhakti School of Theology, Yogyakarta.

In 1998 he was assigned as a teacher at Balide Seminary High School in Dili, East Timor, where he worked until May 1999. It was his first job in the territory.

When the students in major cities took to the streets to press for political reforms -- a move that would help bring about Soeharto's downfall -- Dewanto sent letters to some of his friends in Yogyakarta, telling them he wanted to join the movement. But he could only pray for its success due to his Dili placement.

On July 14, 1999, he was ordained as a priest at the Santo Ignatius Church, Yogyakarta.

Dewanto left for East Timor for the second time on Aug. 13, 1999. Unlike his first visit, as his close friend Father Athanasius Kristiono Purwadi remembers, this time the newly ordained priest Dewanto took up the assignment "very happily".

"He accepted the job wholeheartedly," said Kristiono, one of his confidantes.

Kristiono remembered Dewanto as "humorous and easy going". Like most Yogyakartans, Romo Anto loved plesetan (joking by twisting words). Kristiono recalled a time when Dewanto told him in an amusing e-mail that he had been stoned.

In August, Romo Anto left Dili for Suai, some 80 kilometers to the southwest. His mother said that on the day his son left for Suai he asked her not to contact him unless he did so, saying he would "work in a remote place unreachable by phone".

"He also told me that he would serve an underdeveloped community in the new place. The community was so underdeveloped that they would run to a priest for anything, including medicine. That was my last contact with my son," Lucia recalled.

Lucia received news about Romo Anto's death on Sept. 9. "Condolences came from everywhere. Some of them came from Surabaya, Purwokerto, and even from the Philippines," Lucia said.

"We realized that he was not just ours. He had belonged to the public after he was ordained. That's why we all wholeheartedly let him go."

Colese St Ignatius Kotabaru, Yogyakarta, (the center of the Society of Jesus in Indonesia) held a requiem mass at Kotabaru Church on Sept. 11. The Purwokerto Diocese held such masses for seven consecutive days. The dioceses of Surabaya, Semarang and other cities did the same.

It was for this same reason that Lucia did not insist on burying her son in his hometown. She believed Dili was the best place for him to be laid to rest.

"I was told that when the time is appropriate, I would have the chance to visit my son's grave," Lucia said.

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